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Author: Jessica

Trump tariff policies are threatening our efforts to transition the Tongass National Forest away from logging old-growth forests

By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter 

Originally published at E&E News on Friday, August 16, 2019

KETCHIKAN, Alaska — The Trump administration’s trade war with China is hitting Alaska’s timber industry where it may hurt most: in the younger trees that everyone seems to agree are the future of the business.

China’s 20% tariff on U.S. timber is retaliation for similar levies the administration placed on Chinese goods. And while Chinese officials spoke earlier this week of trying to reach a middle ground in the broader trade battle, people close to the timber industry in southeast Alaska say they’re not sure the region’s mills that ship there can quickly recover when the battle settles.

That could throw off plans to transition out of old-growth timber harvesting in the Tongass National Forest, a practice that’s unpopular with conservation and environmental groups, as well as Alaska Native tribes, but maintains support from the state’s political leaders.

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Oregon Needs New Approach to Forest, Fire Management

For Immediate Release, March 13, 2019

Contacts: Luke Ruediger, Applegate Network, Klamath Forest Alliance, (541) 890-8974, | Dominick A. DellaSala, Geos Institute, (541) 621-7223, | Timothy Ingalsbee, Fire Fighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology, (541) 338-7671, | Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894,

Oregon Needs New Approach to Forest, Fire Management

Gov. Brown’s Wildfire Council Ignores Wildfire Science, Won’t Make Communities Safe

ASHLAND, Ore.― Conservation groups are urging Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to include proven methods for protecting communities and firefighters in the Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response. In a recent letter to the governor, the groups outline six recommendations as part of a proposed community protection alternative plan.

The governor should include expertise in defensible space and wildfire risk planning, climate change and forest-fire ecology on the Council, the groups said. Brown also should ensure a transparent process for the public and scientists to contribute to the council’s work.

“Our community protection alternative would most effectively accomplish the governor’s goals of keeping the public safe and protecting Oregon’s environment, which brings residents, visitors and businesses to our state,” said Luke Ruediger with the Applegate Network and Klamath Forest Alliance. “Unfortunately, public promises to eliminate smoke and stop wildfires are not realistic and are misleading. It may be counter intuitive, but we need more fire in the backcountry, where wildfires benefit forests and reduce fuels.”

Investing in home and firefighter protections will do far more to keep communities and firefighters safe than thinning backcountry forests. Research found that wildfires occur in only about 1 percent of U.S. Forest Service areas that have undergone fuel-reduction treatments. This suggests that landscape-scale thinning is not a cost-effective means of addressing wildfires.

“The chance of a forest fire encountering an area where fuels have been reduced is about 1 percent, but we’re 100 percent certain where there are communities at risk from wildfires,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Focusing resources on existing developments, rather than on logging in the backcountry, is the best way to protect communities with limited tax dollars.”

Wildfires are a natural and necessary ecological process. But a warming climate, fire suppression, clearcutting, and post-fire logging and tree planting practices have transformed portions of Oregon’s fire-resilient older forests to fire-prone landscapes.

Oregon also suffers from a lack of fire-safe building siting and construction practices. Homes that are easily ignited by embers are responsible for feeding urban conflagrations like those in Santa Rosa and Paradise, Calif. This risk can be greatly reduced by proven defensible space measures that prepare homes from the home outward instead of logging from wildlands inward.

“Thinning is appropriate in densely planted tree plantations that act as fire’s gasoline, but is being oversold as a panacea to stop fires and smoke that it simply cannot deliver on—especially in a warming climate where large fires overwhelm firefighting forces regardless of thinning efforts, said Dominick A. DellaSala, chief scientist with the Geos Institute. “Thinning forests away from houses does nothing to prevent those houses from burning.”

“Firefighters are needlessly being exposed to extra risk trying to protect vulnerable homes and communities, said Timothy Ingalsbee, executive director of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology (FUSEE). “If homes and communities are proactively prepared for fire, this dramatically improves their chance of surviving fire from any source or location, and greatly expands opportunities to ecologically managed fires in remote natural areas for the many benefits they provide in fuels reduction and forest restoration–virtually for free.”

The Community Wildfire Protection Alternative recommendations:

  1. Emphasize reducing home ignitability and discourage new development in naturally fire-prone areas.
  2. Target thinning and prescribed fire in strategic locations surrounding communities on both public and private lands within a quarter-mile of residential lands. This will help provide safe spaces for wildlands firefighters.
  3. Address particulate pollution by improving state air-quality standards and restricting emissions from uses such as wood-burning stoves, automobiles and agriculture.
  4. Provide funding for fire/smoke shelters, tax rebates for HEPA filters and upgrades to HVAC systems, and aid to the most health-vulnerable segments of society by working with health care providers.
  5. Utilize both managed wildland fires in the backcountry and prescribed burns under safe conditions for multiple ecosystem benefits—including the most cost-effective way to restore forest ecosystems to have more natural amounts of burnable material.
  6. Prohibit logging practices that can increase unnatural wildfire risks such as clearcut/modified clearcutting, postfire logging, removal of large fire-resistant trees, excessive opening of forest canopies, and commercial logging operations that produce highly flammable, excess slash that is expensive and most often not feasible to remove.

Community Fire Protection Alternative for Fire Safety

Conservation groups announced a new fire protection alternative designed to protect homes and firefighters from wildfires as a counter to pro-logging approaches that create fire- and climate-unsafe landscapes. The alternative was sent to Oregon Governor Kate Brown and has relevance to fire fighting efforts in California as well, where California Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed massive logging that will do nothing to prepare communities for wildfire safety.

Read the response to Governor Brown’s Executive Order on Oregon’s Wildfire Response Council

235 Scientists tell the Forest Service to put the brakes on Tongass Roadless Area logging and development

tongass roadlessContact: Dr. Dominick DellaSala (; 541-621-7223)

Ashland, Oregon – over two hundred of the nation’s top conservation and natural resource scientists called on the Forest Service to suspend its efforts to rollback popular roadless area protections on over 9 million-acres of the nation’s most intact temperate rainforest in Alaska.

Considered the crown jewel of the national forest system, the 16.8 million-acre Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska contains thousands of near shore islands, spectacular glaciated mountains, and towering spruce-hemlock forests. Roadless areas (>5,000-acre areas lacking development) are the ecological foundation to some of the world’s most prolific salmon runs that support fish-eating bears, eagles, and wolves along with a vibrant outdoor and recreation economy that supports far more jobs and generates more money for local communities than the region’s extraction industries. Tongass old-growth forests, which the Forest Service intends to log, store more carbon than any forest in the nation, which is key to Alaska’s ability to prepare for unprecedented climate change already well underway.

According to Dominick A. DellaSala, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, and editor/author of Temperate and Boreal Forests of the World: Ecology and Conservation, “Forest Service would best serve the public by shifting timber supply to young forests where a wall-of-wood will soon be ready to support the timber industry, instead of a wall-of-opposition from the public concerned about the fate of rainforests.”

The Roadless Conservation Rule (2001) protects over 50 million acres of the nation’s last intact landscapes. At the time, over 1 million Americans provided comments in support of this landmark conservation achievement, including hundreds of scientists that wanted Tongass roadless areas to have national protections. The Tongass is unique in containing over 9 million roadless acres, which is over half this national forest and ~19% of the national total.

Retired Alaskan wildlife biologist, Matt Kirchhoff, noted “ancient cedars will be cut down and exported to the Far East, and ironically, the US Taxpayer will pay for it. It’s time to stop the madness. Protect the still intact roadless areas in America’s only temperate rainforest.”

Retired Alaskan wildlife ecologist and co-editor/author of North Pacific Temperate Rainforests, John Schoen added “the consensus of scientists, including two former Forest Service Chiefs (Mike Dombeck, Jack Ward Thomas) is the nation’s remaining old growth should be protected from developments. Excluding the Tongass from the national roadless protections will have an irreversible consequence to the vibrant fish and wildlife populations that depend on these areas in America’s largest national forest.”

The Forest Service is taking public comments, which closes October 15, and has a website with details on the Alaska proposal.

Media Coverage


217 Scientists call on Congress to oppose logging provisions in the House Farm Bill

As scientists with backgrounds in ecological sciences and natural resources management, we are greatly concerned about proposals to speed up and expand logging on public lands in response to recent increases in wildfires in the West – proposals such as the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill. There are pragmatic, science-based solutions that can maintain biologically diverse fire-dependent ecosystems while reducing risks to communities and firefighters facing some of the most active fire seasons in recent memory. Unfortunately, such solutions are getting lost in the endless rhetoric and blaming that has characterized wildfires in the media, Congress, and the Trump administration. We the undersigned are calling on decision makers to facilitate a civil dialogue and careful consideration of the science to ensure that any policy changes will result in communities being protected while safeguarding essential ecosystem processes.

Read the full letter to Congress

Over 200 scientists sign letter to Congress about proposals to “fix” funding for Wildland Fire Management

Congress has included 90 anti-environmental riders on the Omnibus Appropriations bill that it is rushing to pass next week. Measures to address runaway wildfire suppression spending, for instance, include destructive riders to eliminate protections for old-growth forests and roadless areas in Alaska, expand Categorical Exclusions (no environmental review) on logging projects up to 6,000 acres, and weaken protections for endangered species.

I am excited to report that over 200 scientists have signed on so far. The letter will be delivered to Capitol Hill staffers on Friday morning DC time; however, we will continue to accept signatories through Tuesday of next week as we update the final count and resubmit the letter later.

View the letter delivered Friday, March 16, 2018.

Trump budget bad news for nature

Although President Trump’s budget is still taking shape, it appears that it would significantly reduce regulations, impact air and water quality and degrade the health of humans, the natural environment and Southern Oregon’s tourism industry, according to local environmental groups.

Dominick DellaSala, president and chief scientist of the Geos Institute in Ashland, said during a working trip to Washington, D.C., that there are many potential negative impacts, ranging from air and water pollution to an increase in disease-bearing insects moving north and west from the tropics.

“Cutting science and climate-change funding via the Trump budget proposal means increased human suffering, especially to vulnerable populations — the young, elderly and poor,” said DellaSala, whose daughter has had Lyme disease for five years, caught from a tick in their Talent backyard.

“In D.C., anything to do with science, especially climate change, is in the cross-hairs,” DellaSala said. “If there’s no viable EPA, there’s going to be more air and water pollution and less regulation, but here in Washington, they all say the budget is DOA (dead on arrival).”

Keep reading the full article in the Mail Tribune